On Friday, for the second time in as many games, the Washington Wizards host the Atlanta Hawks in a matchup with significant NBA play-in round implications.
Atlanta and Washington locked up on Wednesday in a showdown between teams currently sitting at eighth and 10th in the Eastern Conference standings. The No. 8 Hawks scored a 122-120 win over the Wizards, who are No. 10 entering Thursday’s play.
Atlanta went on a 6-1 run during the final 1:38 to break a 114-114 tie. The late-game cushion preserved the win in a game that the Hawks rallied from a 15-point third-quarter deficit.
Trae Young, the Hawks’ leading scorer on the season at 26.7 points per game, went for 28 in Wednesday’s win and added 10 assists.
“It’s obviously just one game, but I knew it was gonna work for me eventually,” Young told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Obviously, you’re playing really hard on one end and just trying to do the same on the other. So I’m glad my offensive game matched my defense tonight.”
At 11-of-14 from the floor, Young delivered his best shooting performance of the season and had his second consecutive game connecting on better than 50 percent of his attempts after seven straight outings in which he made less than 47 percent.
Wednesday’s victory improved Atlanta to .500 on the season and 1 1/2 games behind Miami for the top spot among the four play-in berths in the East. The Hawks opened a four-game road swing that concludes with Friday’s contest by playing the Heat twice in Miami — both Atlanta losses.
Young scored just eight points in the first of the two defeats against the Heat.
Washington now heads into Friday’s contest trailing the Hawks by two games and ninth-place Toronto by a half-game through Wednesday’s action. The Wizards split back-to-back contests with the Raptors last week but have lost three of four overall.
“It means double, almost,” said Kristaps Porzingis of playing Atlanta in back-to-back games. “We want to get the job done … but we didn’t. So we have to live with this and bounce back next game, at least even the series 1-1.”
Porzingis scored a career-high 43 points in Wednesday’s contest.
A win Friday would give Washington a 2-1 advantage in the season series with one more to play on April 5. The Wizards claimed a 119-116 victory in Atlanta on Feb. 28 without Porzingis in the lineup.
Bradley Beal went for 37 points in that one, the first of three games over the last six in which Beal posted at least 32 points.
Beal scored 24 points in Wednesday’s loss, while Kyle Kuzma added 25 points and 10 rebounds to complement Porzingis’ career-high night. No other Wizard scored more than Corey Kispert’s 10 points off the bench.
Atlanta, meanwhile, had six more players in double figures along with Young. Dejounte Murray scored 17 points, while John Collins knocked down 4 of 7 3-point attempts en route to 14 points.
Murray is averaging 21 points per game and is a week removed from posting a career-best 41 points in a win over Portland.
–Field Level Media